Disclaimer: Due to the season being so early, some wrestlers may start the season wrestling up a weight or two.
Breakdown: Only in its fourth year of existence, the Rumble for the Rig tournament host by central section power Bakersfield High, is becoming one of the elite tournaments in the first week of December. When a tournament director can attract # 3 Selma (CS), # 7 Oakdale (SJ), and # 12 De La Salle (NC), under one roof so early in the season, it tells you the quality of event the Drillers are trying to run. All the teams allude in the previous sentence could make a run at a CIF state team title this 2017-18 season. So, while the field is small with only 17-teams, this is an event worth watching.
Last season was a record-setting season for Selma High. The Bears advanced nine wrestlers to the CIF state tournament and finished in fourth place. Last year, the Bears won this event with three individual champions; only Robert Garcia IV has graduated and moved on to compete at Fresno State. Despite his absence, Selma returns to the tournament individual champions Tristan Lujan (113) and Tony Mendoza (138) in hunt of their second tournament title. Add finalists Robert Areyano (132), Luis Ramos (132), Jace Luchau (152), state medalist Christian Rodriguez (170), and super fab freshmen Richard Figueroa (106) and Tyler Sepulveda (126), and we could see Selma win this event for a second consecutive year.
At 106-pounds, Super 32 finalist Richard Figueroa II (Selma) should be the top contender to win this weight class. We all knew he was a phenom before attending high school. However, he made a point to remind the state and country that he was the real deal when he got the best of 2017 state champion Jonathan Prata (Downey) and beat him 4-3 at the California World Challenge. Carlos Negrete (Clovis North) is back in California after spending a year competing for national power Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania. He has acquired experience competing with the best in the country and should push Figueroa to the limits if they happen to meet up in the finals.
Tristan Lujan (Selma) who is ranked # 6 in the latest state rankings at 113, will be in search of his second Bakersfield Rumble for the Rig title. He bested the competition last year and could be doing the same this weekend. His primary challenger this week could be Taylor Bencomo (Clovis North) who was 2nd at the Clovis West Shootout and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Battle for the Belt tournament.
Devin Murphy (Clovis North) was fourth in the state at 113-pounds and could walk away this Saturday evening as a Rumble for the Rig champion at 120-pounds. He was fifth at the always tough Doc Buchanan and was the champion at the Battle for the Belt tournament. He should handle the competition with ease. However, we can forget about freshman Henry Porter of Oakdale who had a great showing at the California World Challenge as he came out victorious against Cole Reyes (Frontier) during his run to the finals.
Double Fargo All-American Ryan Franco (Clovis North) could make his high school debut this weekend at the Rumble for the Rig tournament. He is an excellent grappler that knows how to get himself out of troubling situations. He should be challenged by state qualifier Andrew Bloemhof (Bakersfield), who was seventh at Reno TOC and Dustin Chavez (Oakdale) who was a sub-section champion and was second at the tournament at 120-pounds.
The 132-weight class features five state qualifiers and a grappler who was top 12 at the Southern Section masters meet qualifier. Leading the way should be Kyle Parco (De La Salle). Parco is a two-time state qualifier and was sixth at the always tough Doc Buchanan tournament. He was a highly ranked wrestler entering the state tournament but suffered some unexpected losses and didn’t place. Right behind Parco is Lokahi Tonge (Elk Grove) who has advanced twice to the CIF state tournament out of the solid Sac-Joaquin Section. Eric Rivera (Clovis North) is a junior who twice has qualified to the big dance and in 2016 was third at the state tournament at 106-pounds. We should see how well he has adjusted competing against heavier and stronger opponents. Let us not forget about the pair from Selma in Luis Ramos and Robert Areyano that could be competing in this weight. Both are seasoned veterans and were finalists in this tournament. Areyano was a finalist at 126, while Ramos at 138.
Two wrestlers that have placed twice at the CIF state tournament and are favorites to advance to the finals and possibly win their second Rumble at the Rig tournament are Tony Mendoza (Selma) and Ricky Torres of Oakdale. Mendoza has placed eighth and sixth at CIF and was the champion last year 145. Torres has placed eighth and sixth at CIF and was the champion in this event at 138. People should expect a barn burner of a match if they happen to meet-up. Fans should keep an eye on Dwayne Guerrero (De La Salle) who is a North Coast Section Champion and was third last year in the tournament at 132. Others that could contend for a title include a trio of central section wrestlers in Rocky Beckett (Clovis North), Lupe Ayon (Exeter), and Adrian Gonzales of Bakersfield.
2016 Cadet World Team member Peyton Omania (De La Salle) is the clear-cut favorite to repeat as an individual champion. This Greco-Roman All-American is a tremendous upper body thrower that can get the fall over any foe he faces. Omania could see some challenge from Izzak Olejnik (Bakersfield) who is a three-time state qualifier, a former Fargo All-American, and state medalist. Jonathan Ramos (Selma) is also a three-time state qualifier and was the runner-up at the Five Counties tournament last season. Others that could end up as champions include state qualifiers Jake Ryan (Oakdale) who has signed with Cal Poly and Brock Rogers of Corcoran.
Double Fargo All-American Jace Luchau (Selma) has been on fire as of lately. During the summer he gained All-American honors at Folkstyle Nationals and Fargo. He has elevated his skills and could be a potential state medalist for the Bears this season. Luchau could be a possible finalist in this tournament for Selma and could meet up with Gabe De Haro (Temescal Canyon) who was third at his master’s meet qualifier tournament; Albert Urias (Ridgeview) who was seventh at the Yosemite Valley Division and Ankhaa Enkhmandakh (De La Salle) who was seventh at the North Coast Section. Luchau, Urias, and Enkhmandakh placed last year the Rumble for the Rig tournament.
The lone state medalist in this weight class Oscar Diaz (Selma) leads the way here. Prior to state he was sixth at Doc Buchanan and then went on to take seventh at the CIF state tournament. He’s a versatile wrestler that the Selma coaches can count on coming out victorious in most of his matches. Diaz should be challenged by Gabe Martinez of Oakdale. Only a junior, Martinez finished a match shy of gathering All-State honors last year. He is a retuning Rumble for the Rig finalist as he was second at 160-pounds. Other athletes that could challenge Diaz and Martinez include Jesse Pacheco (Temescal Canyon), North Coast Section medalist Mitch Van Loon (De La Salle), and Division 1A Sub-Section champion Carson Gause of Elk Grove.
Hang on to your seat folks, because the 170 finals could be a potential state finals matchup in March. Both athletes are Division I caliber wrestlers that have already signed with their respective schools to compete in the next level. Christian Rodriguez (Selma) is a junior that was fifth at the CIF state tournament and third in this event at this weight. He has advanced to the big dance in two consecutive years. He has already signed to compete for Fresno State after graduating high school. Bronson Harmon (Oakdale) is a two-time Sac-Joaquin Section Champion and was fourth at the state tournament at 160-pounds. He will be taking his talent next fall to Cal Poly. It could be one of many matches both athletes could be competing against each other in years to come.
The 182-weight class could be a two-man race between two grapplers that were a match shy of gathering All-State honors last season. Ryan Cosio (Temecula Valley) is the Southern Section Champion and was victorious in claiming Temecula Valley’s Battle for the Belt tournament. Robert Maiden (Stockdale) has qualified to the state tournament on three occasions out of the rugged Central Section. Last season, he was injured during the postseason, but still managed to finish top 12 at the state tournament. Fans in attendance should keep an eye on Trent Lindsey (Clovis North) who was a state qualifier and finished with a 2-2 record. Unfortunately, he was 0-2 in competition against Maiden last season.
Wrestling fans in attendance could be watching a future state champion on Saturday when they watch Colbey Harlan of Oakdale. Harlan, who has signed with Stanford, will continue his education in California. Last season, he dominated the competition with his two losses coming in the hands of future Oklahoma State wrestler, Anthony Montalvo of Buchanan. He will be in search of his second tournament title as he was the champion last year at 182. Other wrestlers that will attempt and challenge Harlan for an individual title include 2017 state qualifier Isaiah Jimenez (Selma), North Coast Section medalist Christian Villasenor (De La Salle), and Damian Wake of Temecula Valley, who was third at the Cerritos TOC tournament last season.
As for the team race, Selma High should be running away with the team title, followed by Oakdale High, with Clovis North, De La Salle, and Bakersfield, right behind them. The key for Selma to win the tournament is to get the titles in the lower and middle weights and have the support from their big men.
Team Champion Prediction: Selma HS (CS)
106lbs: Richard Figueroa (Fr.) Selma HS
113lbs: Tristan Lujan (So.) Selma HS
120lbs: Devin Murphy (So.) Clovis North HS
126lbs: Ryan Franco (Fr.) Clovis North HS
132lbs: Kyle Parco (Sr.) De La Salle HS
138lbs: Tony Mendoza (Sr.) Selma HS
145lbs: Peyton Omania (Sr.) De La Salle HS
152lbs: Jace Luchau (Jr.) Selma HS
160lbs: Oscar Diaz (Sr.) Selma HS
170lbs: Christian Rodriguez (Jr.) Selma HS
182lbs: Ryan Cosio (Jr.) Temecula Valley HS
195lbs: Colbey Harlan (Sr.) Oakdale HS
220lbs: Amador Bautista (Sr.) Redwood HS
285lbs: Xavier Moran (Sr.) Selma HS